Monday, December 1, 2008

India's Leaders Need to Look Closer to Home

Tariq Ali
The terrorist assault on Mumbai's five-star hotels was well planned, but did not require a great deal of logistic intelligence: all the targets were soft.
The aim was to create mayhem by shining the spotlight on India and its problems and in that the terrorists were successful. The identity of the black-hooded group remains a mystery.
The Deccan Mujahedeen, which claimed the outrage in an e-mail press release, is certainly a new name probably chosen for this single act. But speculation is rife. A senior Indian naval officer has claimed that the attackers (who arrived in a ship, the M V Alpha) were linked to Somali pirates, implying that this was a revenge attack for the Indian Navy's successful if bloody action against pirates in the Arabian Gulf that led to heavy casualties some weeks ago.
The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has insisted that the terrorists were based outside the country. The Indian media has echoed this line of argument with Pakistan (via the Lashkar-e-Taiba) and al-Qaeda listed as the usual suspects.
But this is a meditated edifice of official India's political imagination. Its function is to deny that the terrorists could be a homegrown variety, a product of the radicalization of young Indian Muslims who have finally given up on the indigenous political system. To accept this view would imply that the country's political physicians need to heal themselves.
Al Qaeda, as the CIA recently made clear, is a group on the decline. It has never come close to repeating anything vaguely resembling the hits of 9/11.
Its principal leader Osama bin Laden may well be dead (he certainly did not make his trademark video intervention in this year's Presidential election in the United States) and his deputy has fallen back on threats and bravado.
What of Pakistan? The country's military is heavily involved in actions on its Northwest frontier where the spillage from the Afghan war has destabilized the region. The politicians currently in power are making repeated overtures to India. The Lashkar-e-Taiba, not usually shy of claiming its hits, has strongly denied any involvement with the Mumbai attacks.
Why should it be such a surprise if the perpetrators are themselves Indian Muslims? Its hardly a secret that there has been much anger within the poorest sections of the Muslim community against the systematic discrimination and acts of violence carried out against them of which the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in shining Gujarat was only the most blatant and the most investigated episode, supported by the Chief Minister of the State and the local state apparatuses.
Add to this the continuing sore of Kashmir which has for decades been treated as a colony by Indian troops with random arrests, torture and rape of Kashmiris an everyday occurrence. Conditions have been much worse than in Tibet, but have aroused little sympathy in the West where the defense of human rights is heavily instrumentalised.
Indian intelligence outfits are well aware of all this and they should not encourage the fantasies of their political leaders. Its best to come out and accept that there are severe problems inside the country. A billion Indians: 80 percent Hindus and 14 percent Muslims. A very large minority that cannot be ethnically cleansed without provoking a wider conflict.
None of this justifies terrorism, but it should, at the very least, force India's rulers to direct their gaze on their own country and the conditions that prevail. Economic disparities are profound. The absurd notion that the trickle-down effects of global capitalism would solve most problems can now be seen for what it always was: a fig leaf to conceal new modes of exploitation.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Told You So ...

Some brilliant road expansion work has been going on in Islamabad for the past many months. Thanks to Kamran Lashari's CDA, we haven't seen such rapid development in recent history of the city. That aside, although I don't want this to sound like a cliche` but the appearance of a makeshift shrine, on the turning just under the National Monument in Islamabad, is more than just a coincidence. There are actual graves, which seem to have appeared out of thin air, within the gaily colored shrine-like enclosure. The place is en route to my work and what concerns me the most is that this development is very much in the direct path of current road expansion project underway near Zero Point. These graves may also directly hinder the expansion of the Zero Point bridge itself, which is a direly needed extension to the capital's road network. I suspect Land Mafia behind the scenes. This is to urge the authorities concerned to take proper investigative action before its too late.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fit for Wisden

In the early fall of 2004 around 20 of us cousins went on a camping trip to Kaghan Valley. This is what the world looked like up there with the help of some fresh snow and clear blue skies. Some breathtaking vistas and a tape-ball cricket match awaited us at 3200m above sea level.
I have sometimes thought about submitting some of the photos I took of the cricket match to Wisden but never really got around to doing it. Maybe ... just maybe some one from Wisden might take note of this one and ask me for the whole series ..... now that's called wishful thinking :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Table Talk - Identity

So this collegue from work her friend and their dorm mate went out to dinner at Mirchi and I ended up going with them .... Belal (he spells it Bilal actually), is a Pakistani-American who is in the process of becoming a full-fledged American, is the sort of guy who loves to indulge in intellectual dialogue ... maybe without realizing that his discussions may actually qualify as intellectual musings.
Clemmy is here not because she thinks that the 'Gorra Saheb' did great injustice to the Muslims of the subcontinent and that she needs to give something back but because she wants to be here and it would look great on her CV.
Same is the case with Cecili (I hope I spelled it right) whose wearing a rather exotic necklace tonight. This is probably the second time we r all together. Hey! we could start having our own GTs now :p
So somewhere between the cheese na`ns and the spicy palak and my philosophy on how palak (spinach) is more spicy with the na`n when compared to having it without one, we started talking about 'identity' and how it is so hard to define what it exactly is.
To me identity became an issue only recently, because a few months ago a friend of a friend came to me asking for help on a speech that was all about identity and how to preserve it and I started thinking on the lines what exactly identity would be. She, the friend of a friend, was of the view that our culture is mostly borrowed from the subcontinent and we are very much influenced by the west. So if we are to preserve our identity then would that simply mean to encourage people to learn Sindhi, Balochi or Banghrra dance? In a nutshell we arrived at the conclusion that there should be much more to identity than just that. I never followed up on how well she did at the debates but the issue got wedged into my head forever.
Clemmy's point of view was that identity is to be recognised through small gestures as being part of a culture. To her the British customs of saying "please" and the general politeness and conservatism of the British culture is what her identity is.
I don't know ..... I'm still not convinced that if this is all that is to identity then what is it that we are supposed to safegaurd?
Then the talks took an interesting turn and Belal said, "So Clem, what would you call a guy born and raised in the UK but coming from a Pakistani family..... would you consider him? A Pakistani-Brit or a British-Paki?
Guess what she said ..... She took an awkward pause with her jaw half-drooping, as if a word she had meant to say would not come out .... and then with an err and a squint of an eye, she said, "I would consider him a Pakistani-Brit, even if he was born and raised in UK, I would never consider him a Brit first and then a Pakistani..... she was as new to this thought as we were .... maybe that's why she and Cecili weren't that keen on having sweet-dish (humaree sweedish). That reminds me Mirchi has some yummm Shahi-Tukrre (that would be royal-bits if literally translated).
I had to catch a bus to isloo the same night so after unseccessfuly trying to gracefully exit a few times I did the "time-out" ritual and poofed away.... I do wonder at what note the discussion might have eventually ended .... hmmmm ....

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Number One Fan

‘My name is Annie Wilkes. And I am ………’
‘I know,’ he said. ‘You are my number-one fan.’ ‘Yes,’ she said, smiling. ‘That’s just what I am.’ Stephen King (Misery)
When I first started reading, I would secretly believe that I, in some untold manner, had become the most loyal fan of the author. I always thought that I could remember a book and its characters like one can remember the basic plot of a movie. I used to feel that the sense of association built between the author’s work and myself was unique and may not be apparent to others reading the same work. I am not sure about the commonality of this phenomenon, or if it has a name but what I do know now is that when a person writes a book she may never think of these so called ‘number one fans’. People write for themselves and maybe for people they love. They write for people whom they’d love even if these people never read their books.